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Advisory (ICSMA-18-058-01)

Medtronic 2090 Carelink Programmer Vulnerabilities

Original release date: February 27, 2018

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Researchers Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts of Whitescope LLC have identified vulnerabilities in Medtronic’s 2090 CareLink Programmer and its accompanying software deployment network. The CareLink programmer is a portable computer system used by trained personnel to program and manage cardiac devices in the clinic and procedure room. Medtronic has not developed a product update to address these vulnerabilities, but has identified compensating controls within this advisory to help reduce the risk associated with these vulnerabilities.


The following 2090 CareLink Programmers are affected:

  • 2090 CareLink Programmer, all versions.


Successful exploitation of these vulnerabilities may allow an attacker with physical access to a 2090 Programmer to obtain per-product credentials to the software deployment network. These credentials grant access to the software deployment network, but access is limited to read-only versions of device software applications. No write capability exists with the credentials.

Medtronic has assessed the vulnerabilities and determined existing controls are sufficient.

Impact to individual organizations depends on many factors that are unique to each organization. NCCIC recommends that organizations evaluate the impact of these vulnerabilities based on their operational environment and specific clinical usage.


Medtronic is a medical technology, services, and solutions company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, and maintains offices around the world.

The affected product, the Medtronic CareLink 2090 Programmer, is used by trained personnel at hospitals and clinics to program and manage Medtronic cardiac devices. According to Medtronic, 2090 CareLink Programmers are deployed across the Healthcare and Public Health sector. These programmers are used worldwide.



The affected product uses a per-product username and password that is stored in a recoverable format.

CVE-2018-5446 has been assigned to this vulnerability. A CVSS v3 base score of 4.9 has been assigned; the CVSS vector string is (AV:P/AC:H/PR:N/UI:N/S:C/C:H/I:N/A:N).

The affected product’s software deployment network contains a directory traversal vulnerability that could allow an attacker to read files on the system.

CVE-2018-5448 has been assigned to this vulnerability. A CVSS v3 base score of 4.8 has been assigned; the CVSS vector string is (AV:A/AC:H/PR:L/UI:N/S:U/C:H/I:N/A:N).



These vulnerabilities could not be exploited remotely.


No known public exploits specifically target these vulnerabilities.


An attacker with high skill would be able to exploit these vulnerabilities.


Medtronic has assessed the vulnerabilities and determined that no new potential safety risks were identified. In order to enhance system security, Medtronic has added periodic integrity checks for files associated with the software deployment network. Additionally, Medtronic has developed server-side security changes that further enhance security. Medtronic reports that they will not be issuing a product update; however, Medtronic has identified compensating controls within this advisory to reduce the risk of exploitation and reiterates the following from the CareLink 2090 Programmer Reference Manual:

  • Maintain good physical controls over the programmer. Having a secure physical environment prevents access to the internals of the programmer.
  • Only connect the programmer to managed, secure networks.
  • Update the software on the programmer when Medtronic updates are available.

Medtronic has released a security bulletin for the 2090 CareLink Programmer, which is available, with contact information, at the following location:


NCCIC recommends users take defensive measures to minimize the risk of exploitation of these vulnerabilities. Specifically, users should:

  • Minimize network exposure for all control system devices and/or systems, and ensure that they are not accessible from the Internet.
  • Locate all medical devices and remote devices behind firewalls, and isolate them from the business network.

NCCIC also provides a section for control systems security recommended practices on the ICS-CERT web page. NCCIC reminds organizations to perform proper impact analysis and risk assessment prior to deploying defensive measures.

Additional mitigation guidance and recommended practices are publicly available in the NCCIC Technical Information Paper, ICS-TIP-12-146-01B--Targeted Cyber Intrusion Detection and Mitigation Strategies, that is available for download from the ICS-CERT website.

Organizations observing any suspected malicious activity should follow their established internal procedures and report their findings to NCCIC for tracking and correlation against other incidents.

Contact Information

For any questions related to this report, please contact the NCCIC at:

Toll Free: 1-888-282-0870

For industrial control systems cybersecurity information:  http://ics-cert.us-cert.gov 
or incident reporting:  https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/Report-Incident?

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